Northeastern Pennsylvania celebrates mining history throughout January

By Gene Axton - [email protected] | January 13th, 2017 3:18 pm

Mining History Month schedule

7 p.m. Jan. 17: Filmmakers John Welsh and Alana Mauger of Philadelphia present ‘Anthracite Region Mine Fires: Exploring One of the Hidden Costs of Mining.’ Ashley Fireman’s Park, 160 Ashley Street, Ashley

7 p.m. Jan. 19, 7 pm. ‘For the Least of Them,’ a one-act play about the life and times of Msgr. Curran, known as ‘The Labor Priest’ because of his three decades of work with anthracite miners. ‘For the Least of Them’ was written by Ken Gordon and will be acted by Billie Herbert. King’s College’s Burke Auditorium, McGowan Business School, 133 N. River St., Wilkes-Barre

7 p.m. Jan 20: ‘African American Coal Miners in Northeastern Pennsylvania: A Personal Perspective’ with Christine Patterson. Room 101 of Wilkes University’s Stark Learning Center, 15 S. River St., Wilkes-Barre

2 p.m. Jan. 21: ‘The Knox Mine Disaster Commemoration,’ including a special tribute for William A. Hastie, the last living Knox Coal Company employee, as well as Knox-inspired poetry from Erika Funke and Frank Tartella. Anthracite Heritage Museum, 22 Bald Mountain Road, Scranton

10 a.m. Jan. 22: Annual Knox Mine Disaster Memorial Service, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 35 Williams St., Pittston

11:30 a.m. Jan. 22: Public Commemoration of the Knox Mine Disaster at PHMC Historical Marker on Main Street, Pittston, in front of Baloga Funeral Home. Event will be followed by a walk to the Knox Mine Disaster site

7 p.m. Jan. 25: ‘Oral History Projects in Northeastern Pennsylvania: The Importance of Stories.’ The McGowan Room of Misericordia University’s Bevevino Library, 301 Lake St., Dallas

7 p.m. Jan. 26: ‘Italian American Mineworkers in the Northern Anthracite Field, 1896-1936.’ Genealogical Research Society of Northeastern Pennsylvania, 1100 Main St., Peckville

7 p.m. Jan. 28: ‘Pittston area Mining Disasters: A Panel Discussion.’ St. John the Evangelist Church, 35 Williams St., Pittston

5 p.m. Jan 29. Benefit dinner on behalf of “The Knox Mine Disaster,” a documentary directed by David Brocca of Los Angeles. An authentic coal miner’s dinner will be served while excerpts from the documentary show. Tickets are $22 and are available at https://knoxmine.eventbrite.com or at the Café, 804 Scott St., Wilkes-Barre

In Robert Wolensky’s eyes, the area’s mining history shared the same fate as the coal breakers that once dotted the local landscape.

“Anthracite history was a history to be forgotten for many years locally,” said Wolensky, a member of the Anthracite Heritage Foundation board of directors and adjunct professor of history at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre. “People did not want to remember our greedy coal town past. We were just a greedy, dusty old coal town and let’s forget about it and get on with the future. That was a real problem around here, but a few of us said, ‘No, we have to remember this history — preserve it.’”

Members of the heritage foundation set out with that mission in mind when they created Mining History Week in 1999. The event expanded three years ago to encompass the entire month of January, now recognized regionally as Mining History Month. This year’s celebration of the area’s mining heritage includes a full slate of events, including a 7 p.m. Jan. 20 presentation from Wilkes-Barre native Christine Patterson, entitled “African American Coal Miners in Northeastern Pennsylvania: A Personal Perspective.”

“Every group that has been in coal mining has been accepted after all the fighting or bickering has taken place, that is, all coal miners with the exception of African Americans,” Patterson said. “When we start looking at African Americans, they’ve always been on the periphery. The research that has been done about them … there’s very little that has been done.”

Patterson said she took her grandchildren to Scranton’s Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum in 2015 and it was their first exposure to mining history — a history lived by their grandmother’s family. Patterson’s father, a Wilkes-Barre native, was an African American who worked as a coal miner from 1920 until 1956. He left the mines for a time to enroll in World War II, but returned home to work when a need for skilled miners arose. It’s this family history — and the desire to tell the African American mining story — that drives Patterson to research the subject for a future publication.

“I want them to know their history, but not only should they know their history, everyone should know that,” Patterson said. “When you tell coal mining history they were a part of that history. It was not just Irish and the Welsh and the Polish. African Americans were a part of that history. Why should they be left out when we talk about building this country?”

Patterson’s presentation will take place in Room 101 of Wilkes University’s Stark Learning Center, 15 S. River St., Wilkes-Barre.

Mining History Month will also feature a program from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 25, at Misericordia University’s Mary Kintz Bevevino Library called “Oral History Projects in Northeast Pennsylvania: The Importance of Stories.”

Program moderator and Misericordia University Assistant Professor of History and Government Jennifer Black said she has a special focus on public history — history written for citizens, not academics. She has helped her students build a library of local history at MULocalHistoryProjects.org for the public, including a series of historical content centered around the Pittston area.

Jan. 25’s program, featuring local authors, academics and proponents of history, will address topics like the importance of everyday accounts of life in a community, not just highlighting specific incidents from a history text book.

“Oral histories aren’t just an important way to study the past, but also help us put a voice to that history, to connect the lived experience of people in the past to remnants of that experience that we see in our own contemporary society today,” Black said.

Wolensky said a renewed interest in local history among young people like the students of Misericordia University is a prevailing reason for the revived focus on mining history.

“The different mindset is we should now celebrate this history,” Wolensky said. “It’s really taken off and it’s just delightful to see the recognition of this aspect of our industrial history.”

Bob Wolensky talks about the Knox Mine Disaster during the Mining History Month 2016 commemoration at Baloga’s Funeral Home in Pittston. A commemoration of the event is among the activities planned for this year’s recognition of Mining History Month.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/web1_TTL011816Knox1.jpgBob Wolensky talks about the Knox Mine Disaster during the Mining History Month 2016 commemoration at Baloga’s Funeral Home in Pittston. A commemoration of the event is among the activities planned for this year’s recognition of Mining History Month. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
The Coal Miner statue on North Main St. in Pittston is a focal point of Mining History Month celebrations.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/web1_CoalMiner1.jpgThe Coal Miner statue on North Main St. in Pittston is a focal point of Mining History Month celebrations. Submitted photo
Events highlight various aspects of local mining history

By Gene Axton

[email protected]

Mining History Month schedule

7 p.m. Jan. 17: Filmmakers John Welsh and Alana Mauger of Philadelphia present ‘Anthracite Region Mine Fires: Exploring One of the Hidden Costs of Mining.’ Ashley Fireman’s Park, 160 Ashley Street, Ashley

7 p.m. Jan. 19, 7 pm. ‘For the Least of Them,’ a one-act play about the life and times of Msgr. Curran, known as ‘The Labor Priest’ because of his three decades of work with anthracite miners. ‘For the Least of Them’ was written by Ken Gordon and will be acted by Billie Herbert. King’s College’s Burke Auditorium, McGowan Business School, 133 N. River St., Wilkes-Barre

7 p.m. Jan 20: ‘African American Coal Miners in Northeastern Pennsylvania: A Personal Perspective’ with Christine Patterson. Room 101 of Wilkes University’s Stark Learning Center, 15 S. River St., Wilkes-Barre

2 p.m. Jan. 21: ‘The Knox Mine Disaster Commemoration,’ including a special tribute for William A. Hastie, the last living Knox Coal Company employee, as well as Knox-inspired poetry from Erika Funke and Frank Tartella. Anthracite Heritage Museum, 22 Bald Mountain Road, Scranton

10 a.m. Jan. 22: Annual Knox Mine Disaster Memorial Service, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 35 Williams St., Pittston

11:30 a.m. Jan. 22: Public Commemoration of the Knox Mine Disaster at PHMC Historical Marker on Main Street, Pittston, in front of Baloga Funeral Home. Event will be followed by a walk to the Knox Mine Disaster site

7 p.m. Jan. 25: ‘Oral History Projects in Northeastern Pennsylvania: The Importance of Stories.’ The McGowan Room of Misericordia University’s Bevevino Library, 301 Lake St., Dallas

7 p.m. Jan. 26: ‘Italian American Mineworkers in the Northern Anthracite Field, 1896-1936.’ Genealogical Research Society of Northeastern Pennsylvania, 1100 Main St., Peckville

7 p.m. Jan. 28: ‘Pittston area Mining Disasters: A Panel Discussion.’ St. John the Evangelist Church, 35 Williams St., Pittston

5 p.m. Jan 29. Benefit dinner on behalf of “The Knox Mine Disaster,” a documentary directed by David Brocca of Los Angeles. An authentic coal miner’s dinner will be served while excerpts from the documentary show. Tickets are $22 and are available at https://knoxmine.eventbrite.com or at the Café, 804 Scott St., Wilkes-Barre

Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts


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